A North Carolina county wants to resume its longtime practice of beginning government meetings with prayer, and is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that bans prayers offered “in Jesus’ name.” As reported by The New American, in July the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ tradition of beginning their meetings with mostly Christian prayers offered by local clergy. Specifically, two area residents sued the county after attending a county board meeting on December 17, 2007, in which a local pastor “thanked God for allowing the birth of His Son to forgive us for our sins and closed by making the prayer in the name of Jesus,” according to an Associated Press report.

Writing for the majority in the Fourth Circuit ruling, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III noted that three-quarters of the prayers offered at the Forsyth County meetings between May 2007 and December 2008 were Christian themed, referring often to “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Savior.” But “in order to survive constitutional scrutiny,” he explained, “invocations must consist of the type of nonsectarian prayers that solemnize the legislative task and seek to unite rather than divide. Sectarian prayers must not serve as the gateway to citizen participation in the affairs of local government. To have them do so runs afoul of the promise of public neutrality among faiths that resides at the heart of the First Amendment’s religion clauses.”
 

Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry spelled out the details of his “Cut, Balance, and Grow” flat tax plan on October 25, saying that “the U.S. government spends too much. Taxes are too high, too complex, and too riddled with special-interest loopholes. And our expensive entitlement system is unsustainable in the long run.” Perry’s plan would offer taxpayers a choice between a new flat rate of 20 percent on incomes over $50,000, or their current income tax rate. The plan would allow them to file their taxes on a postcard, eliminating the enormous current compliance costs in filing their Form 1040s. Various deductions and exemptions would be eliminated, he says, thus improving incentives for entrepreneurs to invest, create, and hire.

In addition, Perry would cap government spending at 18 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and put a freeze on all federal hiring and salaries until the budget is balanced. He would push for the repeal of ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform laws.

Finally, he would allow participants in Social Security to set up their own personal retirement accounts outside of the current system which would protect their contributions from being raided by Congress to be spent for other purposes.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul won both votes in the October 29 Iowa straw poll, winning 82 percent of the Iowa vote, easily besting Herman Cain's 15 percent support. The straw poll, sponsored by the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, also included a poll for out-of-state supporters of presidential candidates that Paul won more narrowly, besting Cain by 26 and 25 percentage points, respectively.

The NFRA promoted their straw poll as, in the words of Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi,“gold for GOP hopefuls.” The NFRA also pointed out that its straw poll was "last major straw poll before the Iowa caucuses," but the poll included less than 600 total votes cast between the two polls. The number of attendees and votes was much less than the 4,671 votes that Paul won in a close second place loss to Michele Bachmann in the Ames Straw Poll back on August 13.

The straw poll could be seen as a victory of the message of peace won a straw poll over the message of more war, as the only two candidates to address the conference were Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (who finished a distant third with only one percent of Iowa voters).
 

As Americans become more frightened by the disastrous direction our government is taking, and more frustrated that elected representatives are not listening to them, the demand is growing for drastic action. In recent months the action most heard in state houses across the nation is a rising call for a new Constitutional Convention (Con Con).
Supporters somehow think a Con Con is the solution to saving our Republic. They want to amend the Constitution to force a balance budget. They want to shore up ambiguous language to make the meaning clear. They want to assure there is no doubt what America is and should be. For most pushing such an agenda, their intentions are honest.

 

During recent political rallies, President Obama ambitiously claimed that he has delivered 60 percent of his 2008 campaign promises, but the watchdog organization Politfact.com reveals that the President’s assertion is far from accurate. Speaking at two fundraisers earlier this week, Obama recounted a list of "accomplishments" which he has resolved during his first term in the White House, as he rattled off a catalog of completed initiatives, including financial regulation, healthcare reform, and pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Those achievements comprise 60 percent of what he strove to achieve, Obama averred, adding, "I’m pretty confident we can get the next 40 percent done in the next five years." Obama acknowledged that "the economy is still hurting," while he emphasized how crucial it is that Republicans support his $447-billion jobs plan, which currently lingers in congressional limbo.

During the first of two fundraisers on Tuesday, the President conceded that the 2012 election will be more challenging than in 2008, as he offered this thought to a group of donors: "This election will not be as sexy as the first one." He added, "Back then, I was — it was still fresh and new, and I didn’t have any gray hair and everybody loved the ‘Hope’ posters and all that. But this time it’s — We’ve got to grind it out a little bit. We’ve got to grind it out."

An after-school Christian kids' club is suing the school district of Owassa, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, for preventing the club’s organizers from promoting events at one of the district’s schools. According to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the conservative legal advocacy group that is representing the club, the district took away the Kids for Christ club’s right to distribute fliers, make announcements, put up posters, and other activities at Northeast Elementary School, arguing that the club, which meets outside of class time, is religious. Meanwhile, the district continues to allow such groups as the Boy Scouts and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), along with businesses such as a local burrito restaurant, to promote their activities.

“A Christian organization should not be targeted for discrimination when it is simply seeking to publicize its voluntary meetings just like other community groups do,” said ADF attorney Matt Sharp. “The district would have people believe that the Constitution requires a religious organization to be singled out in this manner when, in reality, the Constitution strictly prohibits this type of discrimination. The courts have repeatedly upheld this.”

The federal lawsuit is challenging the district’s policy on approved campus communications, which states: “No literature will be distributed that contains primarily religious, objectionable, or political overtones which may be beneficial to any particular group or business at the expense of others.”

Some readers of this column may very well remember the late ‘70s-early '80s sitcom, Mork and Mindy. Mork, played by Robin Williams, was an alien from the planet “Ork” who had been deployed to Earth in order to discover more about the ways of its inhabitants. At the end of each week’s episode, audiences would watch as Mork relayed his findings to “Orson,” his superior. Now, imagine if a Mork-like being were to visit our planet for the sake of acquiring knowledge regarding America’s politics. What would he discover?

Well, within minutes of his spacecraft landing he would determine that those beings who call themselves “Americans” have something bordering on an obsession with what they call “liberty.” At virtually every turn, it is impossible to go for long without hearing the language of “liberty” and “freedom” spring from their lips. 

Being the inquisitive sort that he is, it is only natural that this alien should want to probe more deeply into the character of this “liberty.” So he does. Our sociologist from another planet, so as to keep himself from becoming conspicuous, would first try to discern its meaning by listening carefully to the inflection and intonations of the voices of those speaking of liberty. In doing so, he would become hopeful that he would before long get to the bottom of it all, for what he would detect is that talk of liberty is almost invariably accompanied by excitement and enthusiasm — as sure a sign as any that this “liberty” is something to which these Americans attach no small measure of importance. Liberty, that is, isn’t just a good, as far as the Americans are concerned; it is quite possibly the greatest of all goods.

If Robert Taft had been a baseball player instead of a United States Senator, he might have led the league in left-handed compliments. As it was, he was often “damned with faint praise” by people who, while paying tribute to the power of his intellect, quite often suggested both the man and the mind had come of age in the wrong century. The Ohio lawmaker would hear himself praised as one possessing “the best eighteenth-century mind in America” by people who obviously considered an 18th-century mind ill-suited to mid-20th-century politics. Others, frustrated by the Senator’s stubborn insistence on examining the facts of any controversy before deciding whether to go with or against the prevailing political winds, were fond of saying, “Taft has the best mind in the Senate — until he makes it up.”

Taft was no Lone Ranger. He believed very much in political parties and could be as highly partisan as a Republican as Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman were as Democrats. Yet he was not afraid to deviate from party orthodoxy or fly in the face of popular sentiment. He drew the wrath of the press and public for arguing against the post-World War II war crimes trials at Nuremberg. “Today, the government has become a busybody,” Taft said in a campaign speech in 1944, “determined to meddle with everybody else’s business, to regulate every detail of private enterprise and even in many cases to set in motion direct government competition with private enterprise.” But while Taft was declaring there was “hardly a field of activity into which the government has not intruded itself,” he was also advancing legislation to create a federal housing program and provide federal aid to education.

“Anytime a parent has to bury a child is, in my opinion, the most stressful and excruciating experience a family can go through,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told the Arizona Republic. Few would disagree. Many, however, would take issue with Tester’s proposed solution to the problem of giving parents “time to grieve and sort out what has happened without having to worry about losing their jobs.”

Tester’s motto apparently being “There oughta be a law against that,” his solution is to force employers to give parents time off after the death of a child. Thus, he has introduced the Parental Bereavement Act of 2011, which would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 to mandate up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave — or, as Tester put it in a press release, “job-protected time-off” — for an employee who has just suffered the death of his child.

In 21st-century America, when one wants something, one does not try to persuade others to adopt his position. Instead, he turns to the government to impose his will on others. Therefore, when some of Tester’s constituents experienced the deaths of their children and thought they deserved more time off, they wrote to their Senator, prompting Tester to introduce his legislation. Similarly, thousands of people have signed an online petition urging Congress to pass Tester’s bill.

The nature of the relationship between “universals” — Humanity, Justice, Goodness, etc. — and “particulars” — this human being, this instance of justice, and that instance of goodness — is a matter that philosophers have been busy at work trying to iron out for millennia. On a reasonably broad spectrum, there are two rival poles: the one is represented by Plato, the other by John Locke.  Plato insisted that not only are universals real, they are ultimately more real than particulars. Universals are eternal, immutable, and incorruptible while particulars, in contrast, are temporal, mutable, and corruptible. For example, individual human beings come and go, but the universal of Humanity is always and forever the same. It is the universal that invests the particular with identity and, thus, renders us capable of recognizing it as the particular that it is. From this perspective, particulars stand in relation to universals as shadows stand in relation to the objects that cast them: particulars depend upon universals for their being.

 

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